CLEVELAND — Every three years, Northeast Ohio becomes the stomping ground for FRONT: International, a massive multi-site arts exhibition. Its inaugural year in 2018 brought over 90,000 visitors and 31 million in economic activity to the region. And as executive director, Fred Bidwell explains this year is just as immersive.
"FRONT is all about the art of today. So, the work of contemporary artists from around the world. [The exhibition] is divided into five walkable neighborhoods, Ohio City, downtown Cleveland, University Circle, downtown Akron and Oberlin."
This year's show is called "Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows," in honor of one of Northeast Ohio's most notable artists.
"That's inspired by a poem by Langston Hughes who spent his formative years here in Cleveland," Bidwell explained.
Abigail DeVille is a New York based artist, and says that Langston Hughes connection inspired the art that she created in Cleveland.
"My mom's favorite poet when she was a kid was Langston Hughes. And then just somehow that I inherited that, it's like full circle," DeVille said. "And then I was thinking about how he had this relationship with Karamu [House] and they fostered his talent in that moment. And he lived in the [Fairfax] neighborhood. I wanted to make something in that neighborhood."
And for residents of our own neighborhoods, FRONT provides career shifting opportunities for local artists as well.
"One thing that FRONT can do for artists that live in our own community is connect them with the art world worldwide. So we developed the FRONT art futures fellowship as a way to give local artists those connections," Bidwell said.
And one such local artist who's participated in the fellowship and received $25,000 to continue his practice is Antoine Washington.
"This is an opportunity that I've always kind of wanted," Washington said. "Because I feel like this opportunity is kind of like an investment into me."
"Cleveland is a great place to have a career as an artist," Bidwell said. "We want to make Cleveland artists famous and we want to make Cleveland famous through our artists."
FRONT International 2022 runs through October 2nd. If you're interested in learning more or attending an exhibition, visit FrontArt.org.
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